Abortion, or miscarriage, is the expulsion of puppies before they have reached their full stage of development in the mother’s uterus. The principal difference between abortion and premature whelping is that in the latter the puppies have a good chance of survival if kept very warm, whereas in the former the foeti (as these undeveloped puppies are called) are invariably dead. It is not a very common occurrence, although some bitches show a tendency to abort at about the fifth week of pregnancy.
The causes can be broadly divided into three: disease, endocrine deficiencies and accident. Into the first category come the virus diseases, particularly hard-pad and distemper, which may affect the reproductive organs very considerably; metritis (inflammation of the uterus), probably from an infection acquired at the time of mating, and other serious conditions.
The question of endocrine imbalance, mentioned in the second category, is too technical for discussion here; suffice it to say that for the growth of the embryos in the uterus to be maintained there has to be a proper balance of those hormones particularly affecting fertility in the bitch. The third category -accidents-needs no explanation and includes all hazards from jumping over high fences to being hit by a slammed door. Even upset or change may start a miscarriage in highly strung bitches. A further possible cause, which has yet to be proved with absolute certainty, is an insufficiency of Vitamin E, the so-called fertility vitamin which appears to be necessary to maintain the health and fertility of the reproductive organs.
The symptom of an impending abortion is haemorrhage, usually fairly profuse but sometimes only slight, from the vagina at or about five weeks from the time of mating. Prevention of abortion is not always possible, although avoidance of accidents is, of course, an obvious measure. Bitches in whelp should not be allowed to indulge in riotous games with other dogs; a quiet life with no violent exercise or excitement is essential.
Apart from accident, the cause must be found by the veterinary surgeon who must be consulted immediately haemorrhage is noticed. Expert treatment may prevent the threatened abortion, and if a bitch has once aborted without any apparent reason the veterinary surgeon should be consulted before the bitch is again mated. Pending professional treatment, the bitch must be kept absolutely quiet and if necessary given a sedative such as potassium bromide.